As a high school sophomore, my parents drove us from our Denver home to Carlsbad Caverns via Santa Fe and Albuquerque, for spring break at the end of March 1982.
The afternoon we drove back, I still remember the scent through open car windows on that sunny, warm day. Grape Kool-aid!
Flash forward to March 25, a gray-leaved selection of the plant we saw, Silver Sierra Mountain Laurel / Dermatophyllum secundiflorum ‘Silver Sierra’, is on a project I designed near my present home.
Near that multi-stemmed, dwarf tree, I used boulders from the Hueco Mountains on the other side of El Paso plus native and cultural companions Beargrass / Nolina greenei and cultural near-native companions Blue Sotol / Dasylirion wheeleri.
The scent at the right moment was strong, even in our thin, gusty, and dry air.
To think seeing that plant on Walnut Canyon Drive at Carlsbad Caverns Nat’l Park symbolized my
downhill slide future career, including this project.
Though on that spring break trip, I was far from knowing the plant’s name with those scented flower clusters or “Chihuahuan Desert”.
The last location at the same project my design used them is another median or island, also with some stunning views.
A repeat from years ago: remove the stakes from all your mountain laurels. They are unnecessary a year after installation and detract from each plant.
I wonder what was once growing in the empty soil area that is no longer there? Still no time to locate the original plans.
All this project’s ‘Silver Sierra’ Mountain Laurel were installed from 24 inch box sizes, and they grow slowly at about 6 inches / year.
That dwarf tree is evergreen and prefers alkaline soils that drain decently, or even excessively as on this project site. They are winter hardy to the cooler edges of USDA z 8a (probably thermal belt locations of ABQ, maybe even Roswell NM), and summer hardy to at least the burning low desert known as the Sonoran Desert.
71F / 41F / 0 or 22c / 5c / 0